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A Glass of Wine with Charly Lopez

Charly LopezBy Jim Parisi

I’m listening to “Un Vaso de Vino”, the new self-produced album by local musician Charly Lopez and I realize that he has really been around. You can hear it in his musical influences. Born in Montevideo,Uruguay, Charly played in five different bands there during a twelve year span: Vision, Aeroplano, Las Bestias, Mamut, and Alvacast, recording four albums with this band. Charly relocated to Canada in 1992, playing with three different bands over a span of more than a decade and recording his fifth CD with Tears for the Dead Gods, before moving to Costa Rica when a friend suggested he come down and play at his restaurant in Brasilito. His initial four month stay here lasted six months, with Charly playing five nights a week. He went back to Canada for about seven months before returning here to live in 2005.

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Malpais: A Retrospective

MalpaisBy Jim Parisi

A little more than a year after the sudden passing of Fidel Gamboa, I thought it might be time to look back on the impact of the band Malpais and the void created by Fidel’s tragic, early death, creating an end to this very popular musical group. 

Although the band had been together for some time, there first national exposure came in September of 2002, when they provided the back-up music for their uncle Max Goldemberg and his musical partner Odilon Juarez, for a recording at the Spanish Cultural Center in San Jose that was released as “Tierra Seca” on the Papaya Label. Though technically not a Malpais album per se, it reveals the genesis of a band that understands how to play as an intricate unit. 

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Tierra Seca in Guanacaste

Tierra Seca

Tierra Seca

By Jim Parisi

Max Goldemberg and Odilon Juarez were born into musical Guanacastecan families. They have played music together for most of their lives. For the sake of preserving some of the musical legacy of the area, they recorded a live set of their music and really didn’t think any more about it. It was the first time they had recorded any of their musical escapades. Some of the musicians in attendance went on to create the Costa Rican band Malpais. Recently, Papaya Music uncovered this nugget and decided to share it with a bigger audience. 

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Listening to the Sunset

Guanacaste al Atardecer

Guanacaste al Atardecer

By Jim Parisi

Papaya Music of Costa Rica is offering a soundtrack for that distinct space of time that is framed by a Guanacste sunset. The CD, titled Guanacaste al Atardecer, is a mix of musicians of different styles. Nicaragua is included in the CD as a part of the Guanacaste peninsula, or “Gran Nicoya”, as this entire area has shared a cultural bond for centuries. 

The CD opens with “Concierto Para un Coro de Lapas” combining natural, ambient sounds of crickets, macaws and other birds, with the unmistakable piano of Manuel Obregon, accompanied by the trio Mandragora on guitars and flute. The song is taken from a recording session in 1990 and sets the tone for the entire disc. 

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Many Lives of El Gato

terry mclaughlin

Terry Mclaughlin

By Jim Parisi

Terry McLaughlin is a cat of many lives. He is an educated, interesting conversationalist and he loves to blow harp to some low-down, dirty blues. Terry was born in Letcher County, Kentucky’s poorest and has a sharp sense of humor that is somehow unable to hide his softer, compassionate side. He’s a cat of many lives, a few of which, he is ready to admit, he blew through when he was younger and time was expendable. Terry told me that gospel and “porch music”, especially of the Appalachian variety, were his first exposure to his lifelong fascination with music. He had his first paying gig as a musician at the age of thirteen and has been at it some forty-odd years since. After a lifetime of touring, in the new incarnation of El Gato, Terry and his wife Lynn have now been living in the Tamarindo area for about ten months. Terry shows up regularly at the Wednesday night Open Mike shows at Pasotiempo and this guy is a walking music encyclopedia, a true fellow music geek. He’s played in dozens of bands throughout his career and has played with some of the true blues greats, such as the three Kings: Albert, Freddie and B.B., and with Carla Thomas, who recorded with Otis Redding. Honestly, I’m in awe. And it is apparent in his stage presence that he is comfortable in his skin, a born “Front Man”.

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Cajita de Musica

music box 2By Jim Parisi

Largely overlooked by the global music scene, Central America is diverse and rich in its musical genres. Luckily for the music listener, there are people dedicated to exposing this treasure trove. Central American Music Box 2 is the second release contributed by Moka Discos inNicaragua, Stonetree Records inBelize, Costa Norte inHondurasand Papaya Music inCosta Rica, under the collective name Central American Music Network. The first installment came out in 2010 and laid the groundwork in exposing both traditional and new, cutting edge musicians from this area. The new twelve-song CD is a welcome companion, expanding the list of bands and musical styles. 

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The Gentle Swing of Rialengo

Rialengo Musica ProfanaBy Jim Parisi

The first time I listened to “Musica Profana”, the new CD by Rialengo, I found myself being impressed time and again by the vocal and instrumental harmonies and the seamless, gentle flow of the melodies. The music is a mesh of Cumbia, from Colombia, and Swing Criolla, which itself is a marriage of Peruvian Criolla and American swing music, all blended in a Costa Rican, Latin stew. Francisco Murrillo, the singer and songwriter of the band, has a perfect voice to portray this flowing music. Francisco was born in Rialengo, a neighborhood in Guapiles, on the road to Limon, on the Caribbean shore of Costa Rica. 

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Having a Swinging Time

rumba jamBy Jim Parisi  

Criollo music actually originated inPeru, and was quickly absorbed by Venezuelan and Argentinean musicians. But swing criollo with its tico flavor had its genesis here in the Sixties with a merger of American Swing music and a Latin style of music from Colombia called cumbia. Initially, it was frowned upon, considered an uncultured, even crude style of music to a point where in the Seventies in San Jose, there were many signs at dancehalls and clubs proclaiming, “Swing Dancing Forbidden”. But the style continued and grew, both in popularity and refinement over the next forty years. Last 30 November,Costa Rica’s president Laura Chinchilla and Minister of Culture Manuel Obregon officially declared swing criollo “one of the expressions of dance of the intangible cultural heritage of Costa Rica”.

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A New Kind of Wealth in Costa Rica

Happier than a BillionaireBy Jim Parisi 

I have to admit it: before I began reading “Happier than a Billionaire (Quitting my Job, Moving to Costa Rica & Living the Zero Hour Work Week)”, I immediately lumped it into a catch-all category inhabited by dozens of other books I had seen with a similar premise. Boy, was I wrong. To begin with, I have since met the author, Nadine Hays Pisani and her husband Rob. They are definitely not a pie-eyed New Age couple, afloat in their own naïveté (not that there is anything wrong with that), nor are they a Bonnie & Clyde couple fleeing some lurid past. In fact, they are a level-headed professional couple who got fed up with the rat race and opted for a more rewarding lifestyle. 

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Symbiotic Action in Guanacaste

obregon teamBy Jim Parisi

The new Papaya DVD, “Piano and Tropical Dry Forest – a Journey into the Heart of the Tropics” is a stunning compilation of imagery and sound, filmed and recorded entirely in the Guanacaste province, in several locations: Rincon dela Viejaand Cacao, Islas Catalinas, the Gulf of Papagayo, Malpais, Playa Naranjo, the national parks of Palo Verde and Santa Rosa and El Viejo Wetlands. The hour of sound and film of Manuel Obregon accompanying the natural sounds and sights of each of these areas on his portable electric piano is nothing less than breathtaking, impressive in its consistent attention to detail on and off camera. I cannot imagine the number of man-hours put into this project, also a statement to Papaya’s commitment. The filming, a team of five photographers, headed by Luciano Capelli, who is also the director and executive producer, presents a potpourri of crystal clear long shots and very detailed close-ups of the area’s living, breathing soul, all literally in concert with Obregon improvising with Nature’s beauty and unpredictable personality. The imagery is really a play of light and motion; the editing in conjunction with the sound is superb. Nano Fernandez contributed a seamless job of recording the natural sounds, then mixing and mastering the final result, a critical step in the end production that often goes unrecognized.

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Bittersweet Malpais Album

By Jim Parisi

Fidel Gamboa

For the many fans, of Malpais it is impossible not to become nostalgic while listening to their new CD. Fans, friends, family and band members were stunned at the sudden and unexpected passing late last August of Fidel Gamboa, the singer/songwriter/guitarist/flautist of this very popular Costa Rican group. After the shock resided a bit, the remaining musicians in the band decided to pay tribute to their fallen leader, which they did, with the help of many other notable musicians, at the National Stadium inSan Josein mid-November to an emotional sold-out audience. During that nether time, the band also discussed releasing one more album, another way to honor their friend and to thank their loyal fans. The decision was an easy one. 

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Farewell to a Legacy

By Jim Parisi

Fidel Gamboa When he passed away unexpectedly on August 29, Fidel Gamboa shocked music fans all over the world and left a void that can never really be mended. The founder, songwriter, guitarist and lead singer of the highly popular Costa Rican band Malpais was honored on November 18 at the National Stadium in west San Jose with a concert by the remaining members of his band and guest musicians such as Bernardo Quesada, Adrian Goizueta, Humberto Vargas, Max Goldenberg, Walter Flores, Cantoamerica, Peregrino Gris, the Nicaraguan rock band Perrozompopo, and the Costa Rica Philharmonic Orchestra throughout the night, including an incredible version of “Historia de Nadie” with Maria Pretiz. The real surprise was the appearance of Ruben Blades, a three-time Grammy Award winning Panamanian musician who was loudly received by the sold-out audience in the stadium. The show continued well past the scheduled two and a half hours, with Fidel’s guitar standing upright in its stand onstage, alone, all night.

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El Regreso Soundtrack

el regresoBy Jim Parisi

Writing a soundtrack is tricky business. The music needs to compliment the action and images of the movie of the film without being pervasive. It needs to follow the storyline so in this way it is almost like an assignment. And all good musicians want to put their own personal stamp on their music, so it needs to fall into the category of artistic expression as well: no musician wants their work to become wallpaper. This article is a review of the soundtrack of the new Costa Rica movie “El Regreso”; it is not a review of the film, which is wildly popular right now.

Federico Miranda picked up his first guitar with serious intentions at the age of twelve and taught himself to play. In 1993, he formed the popular Costa Rican rock band Gandhi, one of the first of this genre in this country. They have since released four albums and in 2005, Miranda also teamed up with pianist Walter Flores to work on the Baula Project, a fusion quartet who dedicated this album to the preservation of the leatherback turtle.

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Sleepwalking to a Funky Beat

sonambuloBy Jim Parisi

What do you get when you combine eleven musicians from Costa Rica, Cuba, Colombia and El Salvador who create a fusion sound of reggae, cumbia and funk, then let them tour Europe? If you ask the musicians of Sonambulo, they will tell you that the result is a new style of music that they call “psicotropical”, a catchy phrase for their very infectious music. The band’s first album, “A Puro Peluche”, was released in January 2009 with a lot of positive acclaim and little distribution. It was reissued in 2010 and promptly won the ACAM Best Tropical Album award.
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Quirky Marley Tribute

Tribute to a Reggae LegendBy Jim Parisi

Putumayo Music recently took a step away from its customary formula of regional and stylistic compilation albums to give us a tribute to the music of one man, the great reggae progenitor Bob Marley. Few people have made the kind of lasting, universal impact that Bob Marley has made with his music. In his short 36 years, Marley managed not only to introduce hundreds of millions to reggae but also spread powerful messages of peace, love, human rights and acceptance. It’s no surprise that almost 30 years after his death, one can travel to any part of the globe and witness his far-reaching musical legacy. A number of the twelve tracks were recorded specifically for this disc. But it opens strongly with something that already existed: Three Plus’s convincing “Jahwaiian” fusion version of “Is This Love.” And it remains inHawaiifor singer Robi Kahakalau’s cool, smooth take on the seldom heard “Do It Twice.”
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